Forums attract high profile speakers

One World Week Forum saw high-profile guests visiting Warwick to discuss some of the key issues in the world today, under the theme ‘Brave New World’.

Forums were held on many issues, with subjects such as ‘The Credit Crunch’, a ‘Disunited United Kingdom’, ‘Climate Change’, ‘Russia Rising’ and the 2012 Olympics being explained, discussed and debated.

However, the forums were not without controversy, with accusations of bad organisation and mixed attendance coming from some quarters.

The speakers were selected from a diverse range of backgrounds, and often had highly contrasting viewpoints.

They included the Mayor of Leicester, a member of the Bank of England Monetary Committee, representatives from the Nigerian High Commission as well as journalists from the BBC, the Sunday Times, the Guardian and the Independent.

This year’s event featured new innovations, such as the first event, which featured a live video-link question and answer session with Nobel laureate Eric Maskin.

The biggest issue of the world today was debated in the forum on ‘The Credit Crunch: What is Beyond?’ The issue proved to be extremely popular, and the Ramphal lecture hall was so full that some students sat on the floor for the two hours.

Student Andrew Briggs said that the talk was “extremely interesting, and packed to the rafters”. However, some students complained that the first speaker used facts and figures couched in unexplained financial terms which put them off within five minutes.

The climate change talk, ‘Climate Change – Overcoming the North-South Divide’, drew praise from many present. It featured Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work in founding the ‘green belt’ movement. She spoke to the audience from Kenya on a pre-recorded video, made especially for One World Week.

As well as Maathai and Shiva, Gerd Leipold, the executive director of Greenpeace, gave the audience his opinions on the complex issue of deforestation.

He also talked about the injustice that those worst affected by climate change are usually the ones who have done least to cause it.

The talk, ‘Russia Rising – Time to See Red?’, saw an intriguing debate between speakers holding two contrasting views, in front of an attentive audience in MS.02. Alexander Sternik, of the Russian Embassy, described the challenges facing Russia today, and how he felt that the media was particularly harsh on her.

Baron Skidelsky highlighted the economic and political problems which are hampering Russia’s progress. The discussion covered a wide range of topics, from political corruption to contemporary literature, and although the speakers disagreed with each other, it was held in good spirits.

Some of the forums experienced organisational problems as speakers frequently overran their allocated time.

There were also cases of poor sound and lighting. At the ‘Russia Rising’ talk, Alexander Sternik’s microphone was not working, which meant that students at the back of the auditorium could not hear him.

As well as this, the lights were turned off at the front for the duration of his initial speech.

However, third-year student Yevgeny said that he could “still hear the speakers halfway back”.

He continued, “it was well organised, especially considering that it is organised for free by student volunteers”.

Andrew Bradley, events manager for the forum, said that students had enjoyed the “intellectual” nature of the talks, and that turnout was “up on last year”.

He went on to say that with such a diverse variety of prestigious speakers, it had been a complicated process. He said, “last week one of our speakers was in Zimbabwe, whilst another was away reporting on Gaza”.

This was further illustrated at the climate change talk, when the chief executive of IBM UK was “called away by the Prime Minister” on the day of the talk.

The BBC’s Evan Davies has endorsed the event, commenting, “It’s terrific. I think it’s only very good to see people outside the curriculum noticing the world outside. I think this is a very constructive way of doing it. It’s been an immaculately organised event.”

The Forum concluded on Saturday with ‘Faith in Five: Challenging Preconceptions of Belief’ which featured an interactive debate between five of the presidents of faith societies on campus.


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